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Dave & Dujanovic: Nonviolent inmates released for public safety

File photo: KSL

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County is releasing some non-violent offenders from jail to free up needed beds for the worst offenders as the pandemic continues to spread.

Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill joined KSL’s Dave Noriega and Debbie Dujanovic to talk about what this move means for residents.

The district attorney said that the county jail plans to release at least 90 people this week and to conduct another set of releases of up to 100 more people within the next week.

Public safety

Gill assures the release of non-violent inmates won’t harm public safety.

“As we go through this [pandemic], we wanted to send out a very consistent message which was that for that violent offender, there was going to be an empty jail bed at the county jail. That person can be arrested and booked into the county jail without pushing up against our limitations in terms of the jail bed count,” Gill said.

“We won’t be compromising on the public safety,” he said.

“Those people who were released, are their plans to address their crimes in the future?” Dave asked.

“These folks, they aren’t let off the hook,” Gill said. “They’re individuals who are monitored by pretrial services. They’re not getting a get-out-of-jail-free card.” 

“These people being released, they’ve not tested positive for COVID-19? I want to make sure we’re clear on that,” Debbie asked.

“Yes,” Gill said.

“And then also I want to know where they’re ending up. Are they going to halfway houses or are they going back home to their families?” Debbie asked.

“They’ll either be monitored through pretrial services or they’re given their court date. Some of them will go back to family support. If they have a home or residence, they go back to that. Halfway houses are usually done for those who are being released from prison or parole,” Gill said.

“Is this just the first wave or are there more planned for the future?” Dave asked.

“We’re still doing screenings. We’re still doing murder and homicide reviews, sexual assault cases and child sexual abuse cases” Gill said. “Unfortunately, we’ve seen an increase in domestic violence cases since the pandemic. Our workload has not gotten any less for us,” he said.

What about enforcement?

How will the county enforce inmates to cooperate with law enforcement once released?

I think some folks are concerned that [people] are on trailheads together, they’re not social distancing. What will the enforcement action look like?” Debbie asked.

We talked to [Salt Lake County] Sheriff Rosie Rivera, and she said quite clearly that if people perhaps don’t disperse or don’t listen, it could eventually lead to some sort of charge. What’s your take on this and how will you enforce it as the county’s top prosecutor?” she asked.

“The goal here is to mitigate against the transmission of the disease and to warn people, to educate people,” Gill said.

“Ninety-nine percent are going to  [comply] because they don’t want to be sick and don’t want to make our communities sick. But for that flagrant violator who is conspicuous, continuous and persistent…that may be subject to enforcement.

This is not simply a suggestion anymore. This is the safeguard. We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our numbers are increasing. That person who violates [the safeguard] may be subject to criminal prosecution.”

Gill said law enforcement is gearing up for the release of inmates and are ready to take action if inmates to not abide by the guidelines set in place by the county.

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

How To Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 Coronavirus

COVID-19 coronavirus is transmitted from person to person. It is a virus that is similar to the common cold and the flu. So, to prevent it from spreading:

  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  • Don’t touch your face.
  • Keep children and those with compromised immune systems away from someone who is coughing or sneezing (in this instance, at least six feet)
  • If there is an outbreak near you, practice social distancing (stay at home, instead of going to the movies, sports events, or other activities.)
  • Get a flu shot.

Local resources

State of Utah: https://coronavirus.utah.gov/

Utah State Board of Education

Utah Hospital Association

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Utah Coronavirus Information Line 18004567707

National Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Commonly asked questions, World Health Organization

Cases in the United States